Our August road trip included wine in Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the beautiful countryside of the South of France. We extended our time in Avignon for an extra day so we decided to scoot about 20 minutes out of town to Châteauneuf-du-Pape village. The area offers some of the world’s premier wines – so, yeah that’s a definite GottaDrink stop for us.
Let the tasting begin!
The skinny on wine in Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Châteauneuf-du-Pape is one of the most renowned area’s of the Rhône Valley with the largest appellation of 8k+ acres under vines.
- Climate: Mediterranean
- Terroir: The terroir characteristics come from stones called galets (pebbles). These quartzite rocks mixed with remnants of Alpine glaciers are smoothed over by the Rhône River.
The story on galets: The stones serve as a protective layer to help retain moisture in the soil during the dry summer months. The stones retain the day’s heat, then release it at night, which actually slows down grape ripening and balances the sugar (alcohol).
- Annual Production: 110,000+ hectoliters.
- The Grapes: Both red and white varieties are allowed in red and white Châteauneuf-du-Pape; no restrictions are set on the proportion of use. In fact, the allowed grape varieties in these wines are not differentiated by primary or supporting, so it’s possible to produce Châteauneuf-du-Pape from any of the 18 allowed varieties. But most Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines are dominated by Grenache.
- White Grapes: White wine production is one of every 16 bottles. Whites produced in the region include Bourboulenc, Clairette blanc, Clairette rose, Grenache blanc, Grenache gris, Picardan, Piquepoul blanc, Piquepoul gris, and Roussanne.
- Red Grapes: Ninety-four percent of Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine production is red. Red grapes include Cinsaut, Counoise, Grenache noir, Mouvèdre, Muscardin, Piquepoul noir, Syrah, Terret noir, and Vaccarèse (local name: Brun Argenté).
Wine in Châteauneuf-du-Pape: Tasting in the area
I have to admit, the westerner in me loved tasting wine in Châteauneuf-du-Pape because, well, Girl Gotta Drink like she was in Napa, meaning we could just stop in and taste sans appointment. Please, don’t misunderstand, I totally dig the time places put into a full on wine tour and tasting. And, I appreciate that so many wineries don’t have man-power for tastings, so it’s a bonus to experience it at all. But, I also appreciate the opportunity for surprise finds in regions where wineries have dedicated tasting room staff.
Getting our taste on, enoteca-style
Vinadea Maison des Vins Address: 8 rue Maréchal Foch, 84230 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. We got the tasting started at a cool little enoteca in the heart of the village. All Châteauneuf-du-Pape. All the time. I couldn’t believe it (I mean, it makes sense considering, but what a sight). Six bottles were open in front of me. Two whites. Four reds. All beauties. One of the things we loved the most about the Rhône was quite simply the whites. We live in Piedmont. And, the world’s best wines are arguably a shade of rouge. But, this day we tasted a whole different level of blanc.
Wine in Châteauneuf-du- Pape: Tasting room time
The village is chocked full of tasting rooms by area producers. We randomly went into one because the sign outside announced vintage bottles – think early 70s to today. Il Ragazzo was intrigued. Maison Trintignant: Located in the main square of the village. We tried two whites and various red vintages. Truly amazing wines. Our host explained they only produce about 19k bottles annually, and here’s the kicker: no export! They only sell local and to folks who head down to the dungeon (seriously, the tasting room was like a dungeon). The high prices surprised us since they only sell local. Nonetheless, we walked away with a bottle of white and a bottle of red. They were just so good. Great place to taste, just be careful. Our host had the art of the hard sell down. We barely made it out with out promising our first born for a few cases (I swear, we never really considered it.) Château La Nerthe Address: Société Civile Agricole, Route de Sorgues, F-84230 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Next, we hit up a big producer off the main road just outside the village. We walked in just about the time a tour was scheduled, so we got to tag along. The old concrete tanks were from the 1600s. Not something you see every day. We were disappointed with these wines; they just seemed over-oaked. If you love big oaky Napa cabs, you’ll love these guys. Def recommend giving it a try. I’m sure three years ago I woulda been all in. Château Fortia Address: 84230 Châteauneuf-du-Pape Our final (random) stop was a delightful tasting. The wines were good. Not pretense, nice and simple, reasonably priced and the tasting room gal was fantastic!
The wee lass was doing a summer work study program from England. Her major at university: French. She found a winery job in Champagne earlier in the summer and after she got a taste for grapes she decided she had to find another wine opp to finish out the summer. After sending countless emails seeking employment she ended up doing wine in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Not too bad! I loved her enthusiasm and passion. And, what an adventurous soul. We need more women like that! We invited her to stay with us in Piedmont so we could introduce her to nebbiolo. Overall, a fun and educational day! Final tally: seven bottles of wine = four whites + three reds. Loved it. V-dawg OUT.